Reusable takeaway cup filled with coffee

Aarhus, denmark

TOMRA launches world's first open managed system for reusable takeaway packaging

A groundbreaking initiative for reusable takeaway packaging was launched today as a three-year pilot project between TOMRA and the municipality of Aarhus.

The system now being trialed in Aarhus enables a shift from single-use takeaway packaging to reusable takeaway packaging, by offering an infrastructure that entire cities can use.

The TOMRA system provides a unique convenience for businesses delivering takeaway food and drinks (like cafés and quick serve restaurants), as well as for consumers. The system is designed as an open system, meaning packaging from different packaging providers can be returned 24/7 to a shared infrastructure of automated collection points throughout a city.

High packaging return rates are ensured by having monetary return incentives, which in the Aarhus pilot takes the form of a deposit that is paid when purchasing the takeaway food/drink, and afterwards reimbursed in full to the consumer when the packaging is returned to a collection point.

“Aarhus wants to be a greener and more sustainable city, and one which has the courage to test new solutions. That is why I am really happy that today Aarhus is launching its own deposit system for to-go cups, and that there are so many food establishments in the city that have already shown an interest in providing the cups. We have worked hard in recent years to make this happen, and now it’s time to really test its application in reality. I hope that the residents of Aarhus will embrace this new to-go cup system and that during this pilot project we will hopefully be able to take the next steps needed to expand the system to include several types of takeaway packaging,” says Nicolaj Bang, Alderman for Technical Services and Environment, Aarhus Municipality.

A TOMRA Reuse automated collection point for reusable takeaway cups in Aarhus, Denmark
TOMRA CEO Tove Andersen officially launches the Reuse pilot in Aarhus Denmark

Says TOMRA President and CEO Tove Andersen: “This is a very important project for TOMRA and a key part of the ambitious plans to use our systemic know-how and technological expertise to create new innovative solutions that will provide expanded benefits for businesses, consumers and society. We are thrilled to be able to partner with such a forward-thinking city as Aarhus, and look forward to the positive impact we can make together in shaping a more sustainable future.”

In the first stage the new system focuses on hot and cold drink containers, such as takeaway coffee cups. When returning the reuseable cups to one of the automated TOMRA collection points specifically used for takeaway packaging, the customer receives the deposit reimbursement directly on their card/account. This is possible by tapping a contactless payment credential (card, phone, smartwatch, etc.) to activate the dedicated TOMRA collection point. 

The payment system is enabled through a collaboration with Visa, MasterCard and Shift4, a leading provider of integrated payment and technology solutions.

Consumer returning a reusable cup at a TOMRA collection point in Aarhus Denmark

In addition to providing bespoke automated collection machines for the reusable takeaway packaging, TOMRA is also responsible for emptying the machines and transporting the packaging to its own industrial sanitization facility that it has set up in Aarhus. The sanitized cups are quality inspected and then ready to go back into the system when retailers order new supplies via a convenient online webshop.

TOMRA therefore ensures businesses don’t need to take back and sanitize packaging themselves, which has been a struggle for most alternative reuse-based takeaway packaging systems. The combination of automated collection and industrialized sanitization means that the system can be scaled to a future where reusable packaging is the norm, and not the exception like today.

After the initial phase which is focused on hot and cold drink beverage cups, the plan is to increase the scope of materials to also cover more types of takeaway packaging – providing a holistic, convenient, and transparent system that can be utilized by all within a city. This will contribute to both better use of resources and help prevent litter in the urban environment. The use of reusable takeaway also has significant potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to the continued use of single-use takeaway packaging. According to a recent study1, by moving away from single-use cups (for both warm and cold drinks) the potential reduction in GHG emissions is at least 70 percent. Further, besides the environmental benefits and helping to achieve sustainability goals, the system for reusable takeaway packaging also generates local jobs in the community.

TOMRA Reuse sanitation facility in Aarhus Denmark

“TOMRA believes reusable takeaway packaging will be an increasingly important and necessary part of a circular approach to waste management, and we are determined to provide novel, attractive and efficient solutions to enable this. We believe that a shared infrastructure with automated collection points is a prerequisite for successful implementation. In addition to the technical setup, another key success factor for broader adoption is that the system is accompanied by policy frameworks that will ensure that these systems are utilized. We are confident that with this pilot project we will demonstrate that reusable takeaway packaging is a viable alternative going forward,” says Geir Sæther, TOMRA Senior Vice President and Head of TOMRA Reuse.


1. “Assessing Climate Impact: Reusable Systems vs. Single-use Takeaway Packaging,” Eunomia, Zero Waste Europe, Reloop and TOMRA, September 2023.